The story goes like this: Fresh off cleaning house at the East Coast Music Awards, Matt Mays begins lensing When the Angels Make Contact, a film project for which he will write, produce and star. The plot details are fuzzy, but it seems to tell the story of one J.J. Carver (our man Mays), a troubled ruffian on a motorcycle who must make a pact with the supernatural to regain a fallen loved one. It sounds awfully similar to Ghost Rider, but I might be reading it wrong. We’ll never really know: according to Mays’ website, the film was quickly shelved, as Matt ran out of money to keep it off the ground. Flash forward a few months and we are left with Mays’ third album, When the Angels Make Contact, the soundtrack he wrote for the film that never was.
Or so the story goes. Is WTAMC really an OST for a film that fell apart, or is Mays pulling the wool over our eyes with an inventive back-story to a clever concept album? With little evidence of a film-shoot, it’s tough to say for certain. Still, regardless of its origins, this is an ambitious record that sees Matt grow and experiment as a songwriter. And for the most part, he succeeds.
Stepping away from the hard-charging sound of his last album, Mays aims more for atmosphere here, mixing things up with ambient noise and the mournful strumming of an acoustic guitar. Stylistically, it’s mildly reminiscent of his self-titled debut, but before things get too familiar, Matt flips the record on its head. On the title track, for example, Buck 65 pops in for a verse and seems right at home amidst the song’s gritty backbeat, strong focus on rhythm, and lyrics rife with internal rhyme. There’s a more urbanized sound being showcased here, different from anything the cowboy rocker’s done before.
I won’t bother trying to piece together the story the songs tell, but I will say this: there are a handful of excellent tracks on this disc, and while it may not be as consistent as El Torpedo, it’s certainly gutsy. In a time when most bands taste success only to pump out the same album again and again, Mays opts to take a risk—a big risk. And as the sun sets on J.J. Carver, Nova Scotia’s golden boy emerges more complete for the experience.